Ouch! Clothes Shopping for Antarctica

When planning for a vacation of any sort, the correct clothing is essential. What became apparent as we shopped for my Antarctica cruise last night is:

  1. I don’t get out in the cold much, &
  2. shopping for clothing can be expensive!
Clothes for Antarctica

Be sure to budget for clothing.

While the Vancouver/Whistler area is world-renowned for its fabulous skiing & snowboarding, the reality is that the snow is in the mountains. The snow report for Mt. Seymour, for example, a mountain on the edge of the suburbs, is currently reporting 114” of machine groomed snow at the base. However, as I look out the window, there is no snow at all and a single rose bud is stubbornly struggling against the winter in our garden. While I still have never received a scientific reason that satisfies my understanding as to why (anyone? I have my theories), every Vancouverite knows that the higher you go up into the mountains, the colder it gets. Simply staying in the valley, you can avoid the snow for all but a handful of days each winter. And until recently, when I discovered the joy of snowshoeing, I really didn’t play in the white stuff. We tend to be beach folk in our house.

So, when I finally took inventory of the clothes I had versus the clothes on the packing list provided by Quark, it became apparent that I needed to go shopping.  The list they provided follows, so you can see what you are getting yourself into, but, if you go, be sure to use the packing list provided for your own trip. I was asked to have:

Essential gear

  • gloves (2 pairs minimum)
  • hat that covers ears
  • scarf or other face protection
  • waterproof pants (a few sizes larger)
  • warm pants


  • Long wool or cotton – 2 pairs [gt: Used in the rubber boots.]
  • Silk  or polypropylene – several pairs

Outer Clothing

  • Sweaters and fleece tops
  • Cotton turtlenecks and T-shirts
  • Silk or polypropylene underwear

Additional Gear

  • waterproof, lightweight backpack or day pack
  • sunglasses with UV protection
  • bathing suit
  • binoculars
  • camera with extra batteries and extra film
  • plastic bags with zippers for carrying film etc.
  • electrical converter
  • ecologically friendly laundry soap
  • small medical kit
  • sunscreen for: face, lips, hands

Prescription medicines

Over-the-counter and seasickness medication

Not on the list are a parka (included with the trip) and rubber boots (essential for excursions and loaned on the Sea Spirit). Also, in the essential department, I’ll be bringing earplugs for myself and my cabin mates to drown out the sound of my bear-like snoring the ship’s engines.

Virtually all of the above items are available via the Quark Expedition Gear Shop and some can even be rented. There are full gear packages available to simplify your shopping. At the very least, browse through the store to get an idea of what the company means when it lists the clothing above. (I didn’t see the store until after I went shopping and in retrospect I might have selected slightly differently if I had.)

Living where we do, there are several good outlets for suitable cold weather, outdoor attire. I still may drop in on Mountain Equipment Co-op but we were able to find almost everything we needed at our local Mark’s Work Wearhouse .

I may still tweak a few things, and there are a couple of camera bits I still need (batteries, a waterproof backpack/camera case, etc), but I think I’m almost done. Now the trick is to make sure everything will fit within the weight restrictions for the airlines. I normally just travel with carry-on luggage, so checking luggage will be new for me.

Given the flights I’m on, it looks like 15 kg is the upper weight limit for my checked luggage (including on the way home with my parka, clothes for my Buenos Aires stop, etc.). So far I am doing OK. I think. I am grateful that the vessel has a laundry service as that has allowed me to think about packing for only three days or so, not the entire 14 day cruise.

The only item I am really debating is footwear. I hike everywhere in my cross-trainers and simply wearing those south would make one less thing to pack. We are provided with rubber boots for traveling off ship. Do I need anything different for walking around on the vessel? The “What to Pack” list only says non-slip soles and runners certainly qualify in that department. I’d love to hear from someone who has been on the Sea Spirit already.

The whole shopping for clothes part of the trip was something I really hadn’t thought about. As much as Canadians are known for measuring distance in hours (e.g. “Seattle is 4 hours from Vancouver”), in our household we’ve started measuring expenditures in terms of “get-aways” to the sun. So the ouch of the clothing shopping trip is that we spent a “weekend trip for two to San Diego” last night. Ouch! This non-trivia expense is something you’ll want to factor into your budget as you plan for Antarctica.

On the bright side, I think I am set for layered clothing for snowshoeing for the rest of my life. 😉

Greg Tjosvold is a teacher, writer, and innovator. One of the first to crowdsource his biography, he is apparently 12 ft tall, has no body fat, is always polite, and is the only living recipient of an Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Stanley Cup, Pulitzer, and two Nobel prizes (Economics and Break Dancing). He is currently reevaluating the merits of crowdsourcing.

He is the father of two amazing children and currently lives with his wonderful wife in the wilds of suburban Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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